South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Tuesday it had declared a wage dispute with DRDGold , the nation's fourth largest gold producer.

NUM said in a statement the two sides would now take their talks to the government mediator, a crucial legal step before any strike can take place.

The union is seeking an annual 14 percent wage increase, almost triple inflation, while it said the company had offered 6.5 percent at its Crown and Ergo operations and 3 to 4 percent for its troubled Blyvoor mine, which it is trying to sell to a Chinese investor.

Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

We will have no choice if our demands are not met but to marshal our forces for a hard-hitting strike action, said Helen Diatile, the NUM's chief negotiator with DRDGold.

DRDGold is a mid-tier producer that is focusing on surface operations and in its last financial year its output rose 10 percent to around 265,000 ounces.

South Africa's three biggest gold producers, AngloGold Ashanti , Gold Fields and Harmony Gold , settled with the unions last month with annual increases of 7.5 to 10 percent for two years after a five-day strike that cost about $190 million in lost output.